Children often perceive Chinese characters as complex, boring, and irregular, leading to anxiety and disinterest in learning them. Recognizing this challenge, Jiayu Yao analyzed the cognitive and age characteristics of lower-grade students and developed the Hanzi Storytelling Box based on the "child-oriented" design principle.
The Hanzi Storytelling Box is not just a toy; it is a meaningful tool that supports young children in developing a positive relationship with Chinese characters. The toy kit leverages the pictographic nature of characters and blends visual and auditory elements to help learners recognize and remember them more effectively.
The toy divides characters into three categories based on themes: nature (yellow), people (blue), and artifacts (red). This categorization not only aids in organizing the characters but also adds a visual distinction that enhances the learning experience. By appreciating the beauty of Chinese characters and exploring their mysteries, young children find learning fun and engaging.
Utilizing a user-centered approach, the Hanzi Storytelling Box allows children to freely play with character blocks. They can place a single block or combine two blocks to form a specific character on the Storytelling Box. Upon pushing the box button, the toy broadcasts the description of the Chinese characters and related fables, providing an immersive learning experience.
In addition to the physical toy, the Hanzi Storytelling Box is accompanied by an app that offers a range of learning resources. Children can record their own Chinese character stories and play them back with the physical toy, fostering creativity and personalization. The app also provides additional resources such as words, sentences, writing strokes, associative drawing, and review exercises, enabling children to learn Chinese characters holistically and easily.
The Hanzi Storytelling Box was developed using a combination of UX design processes, including Rhinoceros, Keyshot, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. The electronic circuit technology, along with Arduino, enables the seamless integration of speech recognition, LED lights, speakers, RFID tags, and readers. The toy's physical components are crafted from high-quality wood, ensuring durability and a tactile experience.
Jiayu Yao and the design team behind the Hanzi Storytelling Box embarked on this project in March 2022 and completed it in October 2022 in Ningbo. The design process involved extensive research, combining Montessori's sensitive period for senses and Piaget's constructivism theories. A user study with children aged 3-6 years further informed the development of the toy, utilizing their existing knowledge to assimilate new knowledge of Chinese characters.
The Hanzi Storytelling Box faced several challenges during its creation. Categorizing and classifying the Chinese characters that preschoolers need to learn was a significant hurdle. The toy overcame this challenge by dividing the characters into three categories based on their meanings and using different colors to visually distinguish them. Another challenge was visualizing the characters by creating easy-to-understand patterns that fit their meanings. The toy achieved this by describing the meaning of each character through a one-sentence story related to its pattern.
The Hanzi Storytelling Box has garnered recognition for its innovation and impact on education. It was awarded the Iron A' Design Award in the Education, Teaching Aid, and Training Content Design category in 2023. This prestigious award acknowledges the toy's well-designed, practical, and innovative nature, meeting professional and industrial requirements. The Hanzi Storytelling Box has successfully integrated industry best practices and competent technical characteristics, providing fulfillment and positive feelings while contributing to a better world.
The Hanzi Storytelling Box is a testament to Jiayu Yao's dedication to revolutionizing Chinese character learning for young children. By combining playfulness, creativity, and technology, this block toy opens new doors for engaging with the beauty and richness of Chinese characters.
Project Designers: Jiayu Yao
Image Credits: Jiayu Yao、Jiayi Ma、Jing Zhang，2022
Project Team Members: Jiayu Yao Jing Zhang Jiayi Ma Yuqi Zhang Weijia Lin Sheng Yang Shuyue Feng Cheng Yao
Project Name: Hanzi Storytelling Box
Project Client: Jiayu Yao